MS SERVICE DOGS
Our newest program will benefit individuals living with Multiple Sclerosis by providing to them, free of charge, a fully trained service dog. Typically, trained service dogs cost upwards of $20,000 each. The foundation has done much research regarding the benefits of service dogs and MS, and it shows that for those dealing with the day-to-day challenges of life with a disability, a custom trained service dog can be of enormous assistance in helping them to achieve a greater level of mobility and independence. The catalyst for this program was Bryan’s MS diagnosis in 2016. The Bickell Foundation hopes to turn the family’s personal struggle in to a positive by making a difference in the lives of others living with the debilitating disease.
Mobility assistance dogs perform a variety of tasks for their human partners, like bumping the button on automatic doors, retrieving dropped items, and bringing out-of-reach objects to hand, such as a ringing phone. Our service dogs will act as a brace for people who are ambulatory, but suffer from balance and strength issues. For dogs that will be placed with someone in a wheelchair (which is sometimes the case in more progressive cases of MS), the animal can assist with pulling a wheelchair up a ramp if necessary. A mobility assistance dog can tug open doors, close them again, turn lights on and off, and summon help by finding another person in the house. In public, the mobility assistance dog is an invaluable helper, quietly serving its partner with tasks that would be difficult or impossible to do on their own. Assistance dogs also offer therapeutic emotional support and companionship.
Interested in Applying?: The application process included both a written application, a letter from the individual’s neurologist, a list of symptoms and a summary of the tasks that the person will need the dog to perform. Once accepted in the program, there was also be an in-person or telephone interview.
Once accepted, the individual will be matched with a dog that is ready to begin training. The dog will undergo extensive training with our trainer, a nationally recognized professional, for anywhere between 9-12 months. The trainer will be preparing the dog to assist with the new owner specifically in mind, crafting lessons and tasks that best support that individual. Further along in the process, the trainer will work with both the owner and dog at the same time. At the end of the training, the dog will go to its home and live with the client.
There is no cost to the client for the dog or for the support training. All dogs accepted into our program will have a lifetime commitment from the Bickell Foundation. We will provide ongoing support, including follow up visits and access to additional training, to the dog and the owner. Any dog who, after being trained, is returned to the foundation will be reevaluated and either placed with a different client or moved to our adoption program.